Texas Writes at the Lake Dallas Public Library

Happy Almost Spring!

I’ve been writing up a storm, taking a few breaks now and then for super fun things like school visits, workshops, and festivals. And now, if you live in the Dallas area, I might get to take a break to see YOU!

On Saturday, March 9, 2019, at 10 a.m., I will be at the Lake Dallas Public Library along with renowned poet/author/editor/activist ire’ne lara silva, as a part of the Writers’ League of Texas’ Texas Writes program.

Join us for a morning of discussion, writing exercises, book talking, and cookies. I’d love to see you there.

Coming Soon! The 90-Second Newbery Film Festival in San Antonio

Happy 2019, writer and reader friends! I hope your year is full of books… and maybe even a few short films. 🙂

Once again, I have the great pleasure of co-hosting the annual 90-Second Newbery Film Festival in San Antonio, alongside the funny and talented James Kennedy (author of The Order of Odd-Fish). We sing, we dance, we make terrible jokes and have altogether too much fun. This year, the shindig is on February 9, 2-3:30 pm at the Witte Museum!

If you are from the San Antonio area, or know folks who are, you don’t want to miss this! Kids read Newbery award and honor books, write and produce short films that are hilarious/spooky/heartwarming/silly, and the best of the best are chosen to win prizes for their schools and libraries, courtesy of HEB.

Come to the film festival! Say hi to me and James and meet tomorrow’s famous Hollywood directors.

You can get tickets here.

Now, back to the writing!

Spooky Story Celebration at Bookpeople, 10/20!

Join Kat and me for a writing and craft-filled workshop sure to scare the stories out of you!

 

Are you a young writer (or know a young writer) in search of the perfect creepy tale to tell?

Join the amazing Kat Shepherd and me for a writing and craft-filled workshop sure to scare the stories out of you! There will be creepy snacks, lots of fun, and just the right amount of scare… go to Bookpeople’s event page to register.

BOO!

Houston SCBWI 2018 Conference/Book Recs

Howdy, y’all!

I am excited about this weekend (September 28-30), since it means I’ll be in Houston at their amazing SCBWI conference teaching and learning and playing with all my big city writer friends. I’m giving a mini-workshop on writing unforgettable settings. In addition to talking about what I call Big Settings in Children’s Books (including, of course, Narnia, Hogwarts, Terabithia, and more), I’ll be bringing some newer books that treat setting in masterful and unique ways, including:

 

 

I hope to see you there! Keep writing – I sure have been. 🙂

 

 

 

 

Writers’ League of Texas Conference and then… Off to New Mexico

I don’t know what it is about the area outside Santa Fe, but there’s something there – in the air, the land, the light – that inspires me. It’s inspired lots of other artists, too. In fact, Georgia O’Keeffe herself painted in the place where I wrote large portions of Wish Girl, Nightingale’s Nest, and the manuscript my lovely agent Ginger is sending around right now. (It’s hard to type with fingers crossed, you know.)

Double rainbow loveliness!

Before I leave, though, I’ll be serving on a panel at one of my all-time favorite writing conferences – the Writers’ League of Texas Agents and Editors Conference. I get to talk about how to prepare for publication day, and I think it will be a lot of fun and very helpful to authors approaching their debut pub date, as well as the newly agented or pre-published.

 

I hear the 2018 conference is sold out, but if you missed it don’t hesitate next year! It’s always a wonderful experience.

Keep writing, friends, and reading, and go somewhere that inspires you!

Spring at the Library!

Hi, y’all! I’ve been away from the blog for a while, mostly working on a couple of new books, but also visiting some great schools and libraries. I had a wonderful time last weekend at the new Seguin High School library. They had their first ever Matador Book Festival, and I had the great honor of being the afternoon speaker. It was pretty much Saturday author perfection – a giant room filled with books, librarians, parents and young readers.

Here are a few pictures of the day, although you can see some more on Twitter if you’re curious!

Christy Holt, super librarian, gave me my own Matador Library t shirt! (And bought me the most amazing shrimp tacos. Mmmmm.)

How do you know a district has GREAT administrators? They show up on Saturday to read to the kids! Bravo to Superintendent Matt Gutierrez for showing your students they matter – and books are fun!

Games and a book fair…

… and a good friend from my Zumba teaching days was there with her daughter! What a gift.

Over the next month, I have a couple of deadlines to meet, more school visits/writing workshops to look forward to, and my son is graduating from high school, so… see you in the summer! I wish you warm days, lots of ideas, and the time to sit down and put them on the page…

 

February Writing Fun: Texas Writes and Bookfest by the Bay

This month has been so full… and starting in a week or so, it will be full of fun, writing things! And if you live in or near Corpus Christi or Yoakum, Texas, I’ll be in your neck of the woods soon, and we can do some of that writing together.

This month, I am delighted to be a part of the annual Teen Bookfest by the Bay festival taking place in Corpus Christi on February 17th. It will be at the American Bank Center from 9 am to 4:30 pm and it’s free.

There will be some of MY favorite authors there… maybe yours, too!

Then, the following Saturday morning, Feb. 24, I will have the great pleasure of presenting a writing talk/workshop for the Texas Writes series, hosted by the Writers’ League of Texas. Phenomenal author Christie Craig (or C. C. Hunter) will be there with me, and I know it will be fun! Here are the details:

Place: Carl & Mary Welhausen Library 10AM

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 24, 2018 | 810 FRONT STREET | YOAKUM, TX | 77995

FREE & OPEN TO THE PUBLIC | Pre-registration Suggested (361) 293-5001 | Refreshments Provided

Hope to see you soon!

 

A Poem for My Grandma

Hello, friends. I’ve neglected my blog terribly because I’ve been taking care of something–someone–else. I’ve neglected my writing as well… but I’ve gotten a lot better on the guitar, and my singing voice is back in form. (Did you know I was a singer? I majored in voice at UT Austin before the page called me away.)

I sang my grandma out on Wednesday night. The week before, I brought her balloons and blueberry muffins and flowers for her 98th birthday. We laughed and talked about the kids for hours, even though she wasn’t feeling well.

One week later, she was gone.

Grandma was my biggest fan, my confidant, and more like a twin to me than a grandmother. She loved me completely, and I loved her back the same way. I’m so glad I took the time this year to care for her.

What a gift.

 

When I knew she was passing soon, I realized I would be asked to write her obituary, Instead, I wrote this poem.

My grandma was
watermelon and
always
one more chocolate
a favorite hymn
a salty mouth
a sweet little voice
and a fierce love that
went around and around
her kitchen with
broken toes and a strong back
for thirteen years.
She was
a hug a yardstick
a whole jar of divinity
underwear in the back bedroom
Spaghettios in the pantry
cookies and grits
vegetable soup and
bran muffins
interesting cakes
laundry on the line
feeding the old people
a radio left on
and more. She was
a drive in the
wildflowers
violets and birdsong
red lipstick
black hair
Solo Serve shoes
a packed lunch at the movies
in a Jeep Collins bag
mischief in a laugh
and horseshit little Eva.
Grandma was
everyone’s favorite
25 more kisses
beautiful
than anyone else.
Grandma
Oma
Mary
Helen
Empson
Moses.
January 24, 1920
To
Now.

Goodbye, 2017!

Oh, friends, this year has been… memorable, to say the very least. For me it’s been full of tragic lows (my father died) and incredible highs (I wrote another “book of my heart” and signed with my lovely new agent, Ginger Knowlton). It’s been a year of writing fearlessly and reading with abandon. I’ve read some of my favorite books ever in 2017–I hope you read a few of the lists or listened to the podcasts!

Honestly, when I watch the news I know I’m ready to say a final goodbye to 2017. Except…

 

He would kill me if he knew I posted this. But he never reads my blog. Isn’t this awesome??? My favorite picture of him.

my eldest is graduating from high school and going far away to college next fall, so I’m sort of clinging to every last day, all those moments with him that won’t come again.

My big boy now. <3

I wish you all a safe and happy holiday season, and a peace-filled and joy-filled new year. May you find yourself lifted up on the wings of glorious stories- whether they’re ones you are writing or reading – again and again as the days pass.

May you feel joy, and show love, and stop to listen to the wind in the grass and the dawn chorus and the peaceful sigh of a sleeping loved one.

Fill your days with beauty, and music, and magic, and love. I’ll try to do the same!

 

 

Recent Author Visits: What I’ve Learned

I’ve been doing a ton of author visits in the last few weeks. From doing a motivational talk for a Genius Hour project at Hobby Middle School (plus a silly, fun writing workshop)…

Thanks so much to librarian Terri Williams for the invitation and the wonderful gifts! The chocolate didn’t survive the trip home.

 

… to a Halloween Day presentation that scared the pants off the older kids at Boone Elementary…

… to speaking with an incredible group of young women leaders at the Ann Richards School …

WHO FED ME ICE CREAM!!! (This needs to become a thing.)

… to presenting for the Austin Public Library to kick off NaNoWriMo (Do NOT ask me how my NaNo word count is coming. Just don’t), quickly followed by the Texas Book Festival where I moderated a super fun panel for mega star authors Jennifer Ziegler, Victoria Jamieson, and Karina Yan Glaser…

I’ve been busy and happy and running from one thing to the next. It’s been author bliss, except for how little time it leaves for the Real Job (writing novels).

This is what my current WIP looks like… like my office exploded into paper and scribbled notes. Must Finish Revision so I can vacuum!

I learn something new every time I do an author visit, no matter what age the students, or what talk I give. This week, I had a question from a student about how long I’ve worked on a single novel. I had a sudden realization that I’ve been working on some of my novels my whole life! From the time I was in elementary school staring out a window and thinking, to the short stories I cranked out at UT Austin during my dark graduate school years, to now. The manuscript I’ve just finished (okay, revision is almost done! See pics above) is a story that’s been fighting to find its form, to be told, for over thirty years.

That’s a long time.

And when I spoke that answer out loud, I realized I have other stories that similarly have been hanging on in my mind and on my laptop. I “finished” a manuscript last year that was once a picture book, and then a novel. I thought it was ready to go… and now I know that it was too heavy/unwieldy for middle grade, too full of the things that YA novels do best. And so, you know what? I’m going to try YA.

This makes me tremble with fear and exhaustion… but you know what they say: NEVER GIVE UP. NEVER SURRENDER.

Double rainbow power to revise!

I think that’s the thing I get most from author visits: the exposure to young writers and readers who spark a fearless drive in me through their own energy and spark.

Well, that and laughter and ice cream.

Happy Writing, friends! And if YOU want to come to a writing workshop with me soon, try this one:

NaNoWriMo Workshop: Character Development

Wednesday, November 15 / 6:00-7:30 pm
New Central Library

Interesting, complex characters form the core of any great novel, but creating “fleshed out” imaginary people is no easy task. Join author Nikki Loftin for a discussion of character, including tips on better understanding the fictional people who populate your story.

All workshops are free and open to the public. No reservations needed.